Sight-Reading On Guitar: Necessary Skill?
It all depends.
What are your goals? What do you want to learn on guitar? Where would you like to be on guitar 5 years from now, 10, 20 years from now?
If none of your answers to this include:
- Become a top level guitar or music teacher
- Join jazz bands and perform with jazz ensembles
- Be a session guitarist
- Become a great composer
Then you don’t really need to know how to read music for guitar.
I very often dissuade people who tell me they want to learn how to read, because it takes a really long time for guitar players, due to the complexity of guitar, to get their reading chops up to level. I do so by asking them questions.
Why would you like to learn to read music for guitar? What are you hoping to get out of that? How do you think knowing how to read will help you. 99% of the time: those people, through their answers, find out that they mistakenly thought they’d need to know how to read music to learn the things they really want to learn.
For example, it doesn’t make sense to spend the vast amount of time it takes to get better at reading music on guitar if your main goal and dream is to be able to play Bob Dylan songs.
For most, the ability to read music on guitar is not a necessary skill
You can be an amazing guitarist, and not know how to read. As a matter of fact: I encountered a significant number of highly sought-after guitar teachers during my time at Musician’s Institute, that were great guitarists but who were lacking in reading skills. Those were teachers: interesting, right?
The list of top-level musicians who don’t know how to sight-read, is endless:
Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, Slash, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan (or any of the blues musicians for that matter), just to name a few.
You can get really good, without knowing how to read music.
All that said: the ability to read music of course gives you access to sheet music, is a fun skill to have, does help with a deep understanding of music, gives you an edge (because applied knowledge is power) and of course can be seen as a great source of self-development.
So if you want to develop your sight-reading skills, one of THE best ways to boost your music reading skills, is to first develop your fretboard knowledge better.
That IS a hugely important skill that EVERY guitar player should strive to get better at.
You can find fretboard exercises here to get you started:
Here’s another exercise
In addition to developing your note memorization on the guitar, you also would want to know scale fingerings. Scale fingerings help you organize the guitar neck into sections, which helps you navigate your fingers while sight-reading music.
The next step then is applying all the above-acquired knowledge in sight-reading pieces for beginners.
Here’s a great book to get started with on your sightreading journey
Hit me up anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a lesson.
These free lessons are cool, but you will never experience the progress, joy, and results that my students experience in lessons when you’re learning by yourself from blogs and videos.
That is why people take lessons: way better results and progress, much more complete information, exposed to way more creative ideas than you can get from a blog or YouTube video.
There is only so much that self-study can accomplish.
If you want to see amazing results and progress in your guitar playing, buy your first lesson here and get started ASAP.
You’ll impress your friends and loved ones in no time with your guitar playing!
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